Yesterday, I visited the cemetery where my dad was laid to rest in 1985. I hadn’t planned to stop there, but construction and a wrong turn after dropping my mom at the airport led me on an adventure through the city of Chicago, and then to the highway that passed his exit.
I settled in the shade in the summer heat and was surprised that tears can still appear. I hate that my kids were cheated out of knowing such a caring, hard-working and fun-loving man, although as hard as I try, I can never quite picture him as a grandfather. He’ll always be forty-two.
I remember the summer after he died, I was eighteen and my boyfriend and I had broken up. I was beyond distraught. It was early evening and I drove my old red and gray Ford Escort the long trek down to the cemetery and laid on the grass above him. The sobs started from somewhere deep inside and worked their way out. A landscaper walking across the way, bless his heart, turned his head and kept on by.
I thought about that night as I sat near the same place, about how rich and full my life is today and that, unbelievably, I have children older than that devastated, grieving girl I once was. The short breakup turned into our decades long, beautiful marriage, a life that’s sprinkled with parenting three kids that stretch us and fill us with such joy, it literally hurts. I pray somehow my dad’s been able to see it all and that he’s bursting with pride the way he was when he was alive.
While there yesterday, I observed not only my dad’s and grandparent’s grave sites, but many others. I was surrounded by stories of love and loss.
One set of headstones caught my eye. It was a married couple in the center with a daughter on each side of them, one girl was just seven years old when she passed, and the other, a few years later, died at ten years of age. Quick math showed me the parents went on to live many more years without them.
Another couple was buried side by side, having passed away a couple years apart from each other in their late sixties. Next to them was a son they had lost when he was just nineteen years old, while they were in their forties.
Gulp, that’s when I decided it was time for me to hit the road.
Too much heartache to consider. But driving home I thought about something we’ve all heard before, that when it’s all said and done, our time here will be represented, simply, by that dash between our birth date and our date of death, that dash that is our life.
I want nothing more than my dash to represent something special, something outstanding, something memorable, and really, who doesn’t?
I’m afraid more often than not though, our desire to feel remarkable and exceptional leads us down pathways that do the opposite. As we try to elevate us, we edge ourselves away from the one who created us.
Truly elevating our lives means elevating God in our lives. He’s the reason we have our lives. Our sole purpose is to glorify and honor Him.
That’s not what the world will lead us to believe though. The world tells us we need more selfies. It tells us we need more cute, funny videos and more witty posts that will make us look clever. It tells us to idolize things like cars and homes, movies and musicians, athletes and politicians, health and wealth and beauty.
I guess it’s getting closer to that dreaded F word (fifty) that has put more of an urgency on my days, and given me a sober and earnest viewpoint. I’m diligently trying to gain a heart of wisdom and discover where God wants me to focus, and how He wants me to pour out my attention and energy each and everyday.
I want to stand before him someday knowing He’s bursting with pride with the knowledge that my heart’s desire was to please Him.
So much I don’t know, but this I do: my dash will end with a date behind it, and I pray that before that date comes I will fulfill the purpose that God intends for my life.
Colossians 1: 9 – 12 “So we have continued praying for you ever since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you a complete understanding of what he wants to do in your lives, and we ask him to make you wise with spiritual wisdom. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and you will continually do good, kind things for others. All the while, you will learn to know God better and better.
We also pray that you will be strengthened with his glorious power so that you will have all the patience and endurance you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father, who has enabled you to share the inheritance that belongs to God’s holy people, who live in the light.”
Psalm 90:12 Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.